WETHEPEOPLE AUDIO 22″ BMX REVIEW
Words by Robert Johnston
Photos by Adam Lievesley
WETHEPEOPLE (WTP) have been providing the bmx world with complete bikes for over 20 years, so it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing. With a long existing range of bikes spanning all styles of bmx and covering all price points, WTP have their place in the market solidly established.
The world of bmx is beginning to accept the merits of bigger bikes, with longer and (slightly) slacker bikes becoming more common over the last 5 years to suit riders who like to go fast and high. There comes a point where adding more length and slackness starts to have drawbacks when riding in a skatepark, so another route was required to achieve some further stability. With 24” wheels having come and gone, and 26’s giving a lot of butt-tire contact when ramps get steeper, a new middle ground was required. So in came the era of the 22” wheel – offering increased stability and some extra forgiveness compared to the 20” counterpart, whilst only foregoing a little bit of the maneuverability and strength.
Early attempts at the 22” bmx didn’t quite nail it, but WTP spent some good time and effort on developing their offering to maintain the feeling of a bmx, whilst offering a little more comfort for taller riders or, perhaps most appropriate for the likely readers of this article, an easier transition in to the bmx world for a mountain biker.
The WETHEPEOPLE Audio 22” complete was put together with the aim of being the highest quality 22” complete on the market, and features a host of premium features that help it to live up to this title. The frame has been given the full “aftermarket” treatment – 4130 full sanko tubing, tapered stays, removable brake pivots & guides, invest cast dropouts and a beautiful matt translucent blue color. The fork and bar use 4130 crmo tubing, with the fork featuring a beefed up steerer to take some abuse. The rest of the spec features select components from WTP owned brands Salt and Éclat, with nothing standing out as a cost-saving component. The Audio 22” retails for £800/$720, placing it on the upper end of the complete bmx pricing scale, but representing reasonable value for what is a quality bike in a niche market.
The Audio’s geometry is very much “bmx” as you would expect, with some adjustments made to account for the bigger wheels and the “go-fast” attitude of the bike. A 21.9” TT is a touch bigger than you’ll normally find, providing a comfortable riding position for taller riders when combined with the 9” rise bar. A 14.1-14.7” rear end length is roughly half an inch longer than you’d usually find on a smaller wheeled counterpart, which keeps things reasonably agile whilst maintaining the balance of the bike. A 74.5° head angle and a 71° seat angle are familiar figures in the bmx world – there’s no doubt that the audio has maintained its’ bmx roots. How would these figures translate to the real world? I was damn excited to find out!
I split my time near 50/50 between mountain biking and bmx riding over the winter months, which makes for a lot of swapping between bikes. Having owned 20” bmx’s at the top of the sizing scale for the last few years, I’d still been searching for a little more confidence when the going gets fast and the ramps get large. However, one element of bmx riding is the slower, more technical tricks where a long and slack bike becomes a hindrance, so this was the main concern I had going into testing. 5 solid months of throwing the Audio around the UK’s best skateparks and bmx tracks allowed me to learn a lot about its’ character, and I’ve come out the other side with a few new bruises but a rather big smile on my face.
I hopped on to the Audio for the first time mid-way through a session at the local skatepark (Asylum Skatepark in the UK, which is well worth a visit), having ridden my 20” rig for a while first. With a very similar top tube length and bar height, I was expecting the Audio to feel nearly identical to my bmx, however the bb is a little higher, which gives the Audio a bigger feeling from the get-go. Manuals take a little more body english to initiate at first, and overall the Audio has a little less “twitch” to it’s handling than a comparable 20” – nothing that would come as much of a shock, of course.
Once the Audio is up to speed and the big ramps come in to play, the extra stability that it gives makes things a little more “safe” feeling. Many 20” die hards had commented that it feels as if the 22’s give more speed in the park, but I didn’t necessarily feel this effect; however, its’ safer feeling at speed certainly does encourage you to try to go faster and higher, so maybe there is something in that statement. I’ve spent the last 5 months loving skatepark riding more than ever and a big part of that is down to this WTP. I’m finally riding on a bike that feels like I always wished my 20” did.
In the slower speed, more technical moves, the Audio does require a little more muscling around, however as a mountain biker used to much bigger machines, this helps things feel a little closer to home. It took one ride on the Audio to get used to its slightly different mannerisms and proportions, after which I simply rode it “like a bmx”, and can do everything that I used to on the smaller wheels. If anything, it’s more stable nature has helped with these technical moves, since it takes more to unsettle its handling – meaning my lack of finesse has been resulting in less loop-outs and dead-sailors. This came as a great relief, and really helped to affirm that a permanent switch to 22” would be something I could live with.
With the tires inflated to 80 psi (20psi above their rated maximum…do so at your own risk), the Audio still feels a little “softer” than my 20” did running similar pressures. This is in part due to the slightly narrower tire carcass on the 2.3” WTP Overbite tires compared to my previous rig, but also I believe due to the more compliant nature of the slightly bigger wheels. Because there’s a slight improvement in compliance, the Audio does feel a little more comfortable on the harsher landings, which is always welcome.
The three months of testing involved a lot of abuse for the Audio – brutal cases, flat landings and failed spins under my 200lb mass put it thoroughly through the ringer, and for the most part it came out the other side without flinching. Let me make it fully clear that bmx parts do not tend to last under me – I’ve lost count of the number of broken parts I’ve had on my personal bikes over the years, so any breakages should not necessarily be taken as a cause for concern.
A couple of issues did present by the end of the test. There was an issue with the handlebar, which suffered from a crushed clamping area and didn’t feel quite straight throughout testing, however it’s reasonable to assume this was an isolated issue. And on what can only can be described as a monster case on a bmx track, I managed to bend the pedal axle. Other than that, save for a few turns of a spoke key, everything is still running smooth and straight, no less so than parts on my top-end, custom built 20” would usually do. I think WTP have done a great job with the weight-durability blend with the Audio – it feels like it’s put together to stand the test of time. In terms of spare parts, 22” is still a young market and many of the major brands are yet to adopt the bigger wheels, but there’s a limited supply of reasonable quality parts on the market which should remove any major fear of owning a 22” rig. If you’re going on a trip then it would for sure be worth packing some spare spokes and a tire since it’s unlikely a local bike shop will carry stock, but the majority of the parts are exchangeable with a 20” thankfully.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The WETHEPEOPLE Audio 22” brings a well executed 22” package to the bmx world. Blending the agility of a bmx with increased stability and a more familiar and comfortable riding position for those coming from a mountain bike background, the Audio is a great offering for a rider looking for a bmx to go fast and high on. Well put together, and at a reasonable price for a quality complete bike, WTP have seemingly nailed it with this bike – so much so that I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and purchase one for myself!
Frame: 4130 full sanko, tapered CS and SS, removable pivots & guides, invest cast dropouts, integrated seat clamp
Fork: WTP “AUDIO” fork, butted crmo tubing, increased thickness steerer tube, 32mm offset
Brakes: ÉCLAT “TALON” alloy u-brake rear, SALTPLUS “PROPELLER” clear brake pads, SALT “MOTO” alloy brake lever
Handlebar: WETHEPEOPLE “AUDIO” bar, full 4130 crmo
Grips: SALT “EX” grips
Headset: SALT “PRO” int. headset, sealed bearing
Saddle: ECLAT “BIOS” mid padded pivotal seat
Seatpost: SALT “AM” pivotal seat post, alloy, 150mm
Stem: WETHEPEOPLE “LOGIC” cnc alloy top loading stem, 50mm reach
Front Hub: SALT “EX” hub, sb, 3/8”s male axle, 36h
Rear Hub: SALT “EX” cassette hub, sb, 9t, 14mm axle, 36h
Rims: WETHEPEOPLE “LOGIC” double wall sleeved rim, 36h
Tires: WETHEPEOPLE “Overbite” 22″ tires 2.3” front & rear
Bottom Bracket: SALT “MID” 19mm, press fit, sealed bearing
Pedals: ÉCLAT “SLASH” nylon/fiberglass pedals
Cranks: SALTPLUS “PRO48” tubular 3pc crank crmo 175mm, 48 spline
Chain: WETHEPEOPLE “SUPPLY” chain, Z510HX type
Sprocket WETHEPEOPLE “LOGIC” 6061-T6 alloy, 25t sprocket
Bmx feeling with increased confidence
Beautiful paint color
Limited replacement parts availability
Minor, likely isolated component issues
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